Bee Stings

I went out to the Northfork of Long Island this week to get away from my kids and to taste some wine — two of my favorite things. It was an idyllic 24 hours — good food, spectacular weather, breathtaking views, and wine that … well, there was wine. (If you drank a lot of it, it started tasting better.) When we got in the car to drive home, one of my all-time favorite songs was on the radio — Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls. I felt like I was in an awesome movie. And then, BAM! Gunshot to the shoulder. Well, it was actually only a bee sting, but I reacted as if I had a bullet wound. I screamed so loud Larry actually drove off the road. I may have overreacted a little bit, but in my defense, it really, really, really hurt. And, it kept hurting for about 8 hours. My whole back felt like it was burning, and I didn’t feel quite right in the head — which I refuse to blame on the wine. I have a new appreciation for bee stings.

This is my reaction:

- In the U.S. about 100 people die each year from bee stings.

- About 2 million Americans are allergic to bees. This means about 3% of children who are stung will have an allergic reaction.

- Most people will just experience pain and some swelling at the site of the sting for a few hours. Those who are allergic will have more severe symptoms including:
- hives over a large part of the body
- itching and severe swelling
- dizziness, nausea and stomach cramps
- swelling of the face, tongue and throat
- difficulty breathing and wheezing

- If symptoms include any of the above, or are worsening, seek medical attention completely.

- For general symptoms of pain and swelling, try ice and hydrocortisone at the site. Take ibuprofen for pain and an antihistamine (like Benadryl) for the local reaction. Keep the area elevated and like me, use it as an excuse not to make dinner.
Most people will not know they are allergic to bee stings until they are actually stung. Adults are more at risk for an anaphylactic attack than children. If you’ve had a reaction to a bee sting before, it is more likely you will have a severe reaction in the future. You should carry an Epipen, especially during outdoor activities.

Avoid bee stings in the first place:

- Don’t swat at bees or run from them.

- Don’t wear strong scents around bees.

- Don’t drink from an open can that’s been sitting unattended, as they attract bees.

- Drive with your windows closed (something I needed to know YESTERDAY!)

Bottom line, allergic reactions can be fatal, but with the proper medicine, they are treatable. Don’t wait and watch. If you are concerned, call 911 as soon as possible.

 

Posted in Allergies, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Depression — How to Spot It

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, the chatter is all about depression and mental illness. Newscasters sounded baffled as they delivered the sad news. How could the man who brought Mork from Ork and Mrs. Doubtfire to light, be sad enough to kill himself? He made millions laugh, but couldn’t do the same for himself. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s exactly what makes mental illness so tragic. How many people are now wondering if they should have seen it coming, if there was something they could’ve done or said to stop it? There are some warning signs, and while every person at risk for suicide may not present with them, they are important to know.

First, some facts:

- There are over 32,000 suicides in the U.S. each year.  There are three attempts by females to every one attempt by males. But, there are four times as many successful suicides by men.

- About 230,000 people currently suffer from depression.

- 80% of those who seek treatment for depression are treated successfully.

- 15% of those with clinical depression die by suicide.

Chances are, you know someone who is depressed. While, it is sometimes impossible to help someone who is contemplating suicide, you do want to be able to recognize the symptoms in the hopes of being able to intervene.

According to SAVE.org, the warning signs in people who are in danger of committing suicide are:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawn or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
Additional warning signs:
  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Suddenly happier, calmer.
  • Loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
  • Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions.

If you fear someone you know may be on the verge of a suicide attempt, the best thing you can do is get them to seek professional help. Call 911 if you need to.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800.273.TALK (8255)

 

 

 

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Can You Predict Your Child’s Height?

I wish I were taller, not just because I hate having to hem all my pants and often can’t reach the top shelf, but because it would make my kids taller. Sounds kind of superficial and “Dance Mom” of me, but studies have shown taller people are happier and more successful. Isn’t that so unfair? Interestingly, the difference doesn’t seem to be how tall someone is as an adult, but rather, how tall they are as a teenager. Theoretically, the confidence gained during those formative years from looking down at everyone else, translates into increased intelligence and better social skills. Sounds like a nice perk to an already desirable physical trait. Wondering if your kids will enjoy this kind of vertical advantage?

You can make a pretty reasonable guess based on the parental heights. Of course, there are  outliers, so nothing is set in stone, but here’s how:

– Add the mother’s height and father’s height in inches.

– Add five inches for boys and subtract five inches for girls.

– Divide by two.

The majority of kids will reach a height within four inches of this educated guestimation. So, while there is still a slight chance your son can play for the NBA even if you are of average height, for the most part, the only way to have offspring significantly taller than yourself is to procreate with someone you look up to.

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Melasma — Those Ugly Brown Spots on Your Face

Just when I think my skin has evened out, here comes the sun! One day into the warmer weather, and I look like an old banana.

Years ago, a little sun made me look healthier and younger, now the opposite seems to be true. Ever since the two youngest monkeys were born, I have a big brown dot on my cheek and, when I’m not careful in the sun, a dark line on my upper lip.

Next to wrinkles, nothing makes you look your age (or worse) than brown spots and a false mustache.

Why does it happen?

The color making cells (melanocytes) in the skin overreact. It occurs much more often in women (shocker … why would men have to deal with anything else???) and in darker skinned people.

When does it happen?

Sun exposure makes it worse.

It can “just” happen, but many women notice worsening during pregnancy. During this blessed time, it gets a special name, chloasma: the mask of pregnancy. Just when you thought you couldn’t feel worse …

Birth control pills and hormonal replacement may also cause the melanocytes to darken.

What to do

– Wear sunscreen every day. I wear SPF 30 religiously on my face, but when I’m going to be in the bright sun midday, I add an SPF 55 to the dark spots. This seems to help balance out the shading a bit.

– Choose gentle skin products, as anything that irritates the skin, can make the melasma worse.

– Avoid waxing these areas.

– Skin bleaching creams especially those prescribed by a physician, can help a lot. Often a second cream will be prescribed to enhance the effectiveness of the skin lightener.

– Dermatologists and/or cosmetologists can perform procedures like chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

Remember, there is always risk for the melasma to return, so even when you aren’t seeing those spots and smudges, focus on sun protection and avoidance of any triggers.

This is me … it is early and I have no makeup on. Be kind. I know, I know — I’m making an appointment now.

 

Posted in Dermatology | Leave a comment

Summer Reading – Tips & Tactics

“Lorelei, how are you doing with your summer reading?”

“Great, mom! I’ll see you later.”

Later: “Lorelei, when you said you were doing great with your summer reading, can you please be more specific?”

“I’m up to page 7 in my first book!”

Oh boy, here we go again. We enter every summer with the best of intentions. We are going to read early and often. Not only are we going to bang out the reading lists, we are going to impress our next year’s teacher with a litany of masterpieces read. Then, in the blink of an eye, it is September. Reading logs, when we can find them, are stained, wrinkled, and pathetically scant. The panic (their’s) and the guilt (mine) start to set in. One year, Madelyn spent the last two days of summer under her covers, reading books with a flashlight through red-rimmed, tear filled eyes. All the while I was saying, I told you so. But, the truth is, I’m not really sure I did tell her so. I probably threw out a couple, “You should bring your book to the beach,” and “Why don’t you turn off the TV and pick up a book?” but I didn’t truly help her stay on track to meet her summer goals. I have learned from my mistakes.

1. You CANNOT, I repeat, CANNOT wait until August to start thinking about summer reading. Even if one month were enough time, August is filled with vacations, social events and angst as we all try to soak in the last rays of sun. You may be way too busy to pester your kids by then.

2. Put the reading logs in a visible, accessible place. If possible, leave them on the fridge or a bulletin board. If you have more than one child in school, there’s nothing like a little sibling rivalry to light the fire under a lazy butt. More importantly, you’ll be able to see exactly where your kids stand in terms of reaching their goals.

3. Book choice is everything. Help your kids pick the right books for them. Stick to their reading level and find stories to which they can relate. Don’t assume the books you loved or an older child loved will be a favorite of another child. When my kids say, “I don’t like to read,” after I shake a fist at the heavens for giving me a child who would say such a stupid thing, I respond. “Saying you don’t like to read is like saying you don’t like to eat. We all have different tastes. You just have to find the right book for you.” Ask friends who share similar interests, librarians and teachers for suggestions. And, remember, it is O.K. to stop a book midway. I’ve made the mistake (many times because I am a slow learner) of telling my kids to power through a book they hate just so they can add it to the list. In the time it took them to finish the book they dreaded, they could have read two they loved.

4. Read with them. My kids love when I pick up the same book they are reading. Whether you have a high school student tackling Great Expectations or a 2nd grader reading Super Fudge, all kids, all people, love to share their impressions and thoughts about a book with someone literally on the same page. Encourage an environment which supports summer reading. Leave books on tables, talk about books, read where your kids can see you.

5. As a last resort, and one I’ve been forced to use, set specific reading goals. Yes, this will then feel more like a job for you and homework for them, but the reward will be simply getting it done. While I would love my children to relish in the joy of days relaxing with a great book, during some summers, with some kids, this has to be enough. The more they read, even begrudgingly, the better chance they will eventually come to appreciate the written word.

It is important to remember reading is the backbone of academic success. Having to read over the summer is not a punishment, no matter how you are feeling when you’d rather sip a cocktail than read a children’s book or yell at your kids. Don’t take your child’s side over their teacher’s. This will only give them an excuse to blow off what may possibly be their only academic summer stimulation. I know the madness that is the end of the school year still has your head spinning. The imprint on my forehead from the tire tracks on the Mack truck that is Spring parenting is just beginning to fade. The last thing I want to do is to resurrect my inner drill sergeant, but believe me, work on the reading now before it is too late and the beginning of the school year will thank you for it.

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Puffy Eyes? What to do …

I’ve never been a morning person, and firmly I believe the only social events happening before noon should be funerals. Morning has never been a good look for me, but this is becoming more and more of a problem the older I get. Between wrinkles, gravity and a seemingly overabundance of eyelid, my reflection first thing in the a.m. is enough to make me avoid the mirror. I can hide for a while behind shades, but eventually someone wants to go inside.

Then, on top of a general tired eye, I am periodically having what I’ve come to affectionately call Pufferitis. If it sounds like a medical diagnosis, I have an excuse. Pufferitis is a unexplainable swelling of the fragile skin around either one or both eyes which give one the appearance of an 85 year old woman. It doesn’t clear quickly and has been know to frighten small children.

O.K. What to do …

First, prevent tired eyes in the first place. I know a few of these are laughable, especially if you’re a mom, but I have to include them for those who have the luxury of time or really good childcare.

1. Get a good night’s sleep, especially before an important meeting.

2. Avoid alcohol.

(Now,  things you can do.)

3. Drink plenty of fluids, as staying more hydrated will prevent bloating and puffiness.

4. Avoid salty foods. When I first fell in love with a good Dirty Martini, my Pufferitis was at an all time high. I blame the vodka for how long it took me to connect the swelling and the salty olive juice. See below for a list of foods high in sodium.

5. Don’t rub your eyes during the day or before bed and look for triggers. Allergies can cause swollen eyes, so be on the lookout for any food, cream, laundry detergent, or environmental exposure which seems to worsen this symptom.

Treating Pufferitis

1. As soon as you get up, drink a tall glass of water, then have your daily fix of caffeine.

2. Use eye creams with caffeine or for a cheaper fix, soak two teabags in cold water, lie down and rest on your eyes. The caffeine helps to constrict blood vessels.

3. Anything cold works well. Cold cucumber slices, a cold spoon or simply an ice pack over a wash cloth will help.

4. Put butt cream on your eyes. There are mixed reviews about Preparation H and puffy eyes, but my personal opinion, it works. Make sure you don’t get any inside your eyes. Also, don’t get in the habit of using it daily because it contains a steroid which can, over time, cause thinning of the skin. In a pinch, I say go for it.

5. Add an eye cream with Retinol, a form of vitamin A, to your daily skincare regimen. A doctor can prescribe a stronger dose, but you can pick up a reasonably priced one at your local drugstore. I’ve been using a L’oreal product, and I’m very happy with it.

Bottom line: If you live a normal life, with stress, booze, lack of sleep and Chinese food, you will have to contend with Pufferitis. Pick up a hemorrhoid cream, throw a couple spoons in the fridge and start drinking your Martinis straight up.

Foods with lots of salt that may surprise you:

salt

Chips, canned soups, pretzels, and take-out are known to be high in sodium. But, did you know these also have a high salt content?

- cottage cheese

- marinades, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, ketchup

- breakfast cereals

- bagels

- sandwiches

- packaged baked goods

- veggie burgers

- pancakes

Bottom line: If you are trying to avoid salt for health or vanity reasons, check the label. It is recommended we consume only 1500mg/day. We only need about 200 – 500mg/day.

 

Posted in Eyes, Prevention, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Don’t Forget Aging Hands

I was at a party a few years back and I met this beautiful woman who I thought was my age or younger. I was probably about 37 at the time. Somehow during the conversation, it came out she was more than ten years older than me. I wanted to pepper her with questions. “What cream do you use?” “How much water do you drink?” “What’s the name of your plastic surgeon?” You know, the usual party banter. I refrained and just said something stupid like, “I hope I look as good as you when I’m THAT old!”

Later, I was sitting with a friend and I pointed out the woman to him.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” I asked.

“She is,” he replied.

“How old do you think she is?” I couldn’t wait to shock him with her age.

“48-49.” He didn’t even hesitate.

Annoyed because that must mean I also looked close to 50, I asked him how he could possibly think she was 49 years old when she looked so young.

“Her hands,” he answered. “You can always tell how old a woman is by looking at her hands.

DAMN! One more body part to worry about.

So, since I am as vain as the next girl, I now pay a little more attention to my hands. Anything that goes on my face goes on my hands — sunscreen, lotion, retinol, etc. The skin on your hands is thin and fragile and can start to look older than the rest of you. Age spots, wrinkles, dryness, redness and saggy skin will all reveal your age faster than you can imagine.

Take these steps to keep hands young and healthy:

1. Use soaps with built in moisturizers to avoid dryness.

2. Make a homemade scrub with equal parts olive oil and sugar and exfoliate the backs of your hands weekly. Do it while you are waiting for the water to boil.

3. Use a hand cream with SPF and glycerin during the day.

4. Take care of your nails by using oil on the nailbeds and cuticles and by maintaining a well balanced diet, with lots of fruits, vegetables and water.

5. At night, use an anti-wrinkle cream that also targets dark spots.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

Audrey Hepburn

I sometimes look at my hands and see my mother’s. I don’t know if it is how they look or the way I gesture. When I recognize this resemblance to my mom, I can appreciate all the lines and spots and veins. These hands have held the hands of ones just born and ones leaving this world. They’ve been washed of blood and dirt and tears and paint and flour and guilt. With all they’ve been through, it is actually amazing they don’t look older. Even though I appreciate the wear and tear, I’m still using sunscreen;)

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Cramps in Your Legs and Feet

With the World Cup in full swing (GO U.S.A.!!), we will be witnessing lots of physically fit, strong men get taken down by a leg cramp. I am sympathetic. When I was enormously pregnant with my first child, I woke up screaming almost every night. Sometimes, it was because my sleeping brain conjured up nightmarish images of Sigourney Weaver “giving birth” to an alien, but more often, it was from the intense pain of calf cramps. The suddenness and intensity with which lower extremity muscle cramps comes on could bring Vin Diesel to his knees.

Why do they occur, how can you prevent, and how can you make them go away fast?

Causes:

- Pregnancy, because of diminished stores of minerals like magnesium and calcium.

- Dehydration, which decreases blood flow to your muscles.

- Overuse from exercise or injury.

- Certain medical conditions which decrease blood flow to the lower extremities.

- Some medications, including birth control pills and diuretics.

- Standing for a long time or maintaining an awkward position.

Prevention:

- Avoid Pregnancy and when that’s not possible, avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid those with caffeine which will worsen dehydration.

- Maintain a healthy diet with foods rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium.

- Stretch every day.

- Do not increase the intensity of your workout suddenly.

- Don’t wear high heels for extended periods of time.

 

Treatment:

- My best advice is to move your other leg. The goal is to get more blood flowing to the effected muscle. It is so painful to move the cramped leg or foot. Moving the other one will tell your brain to send more blood to both legs.

- As hard as it may be, stand up and try to walk around. Especially if you are pregnant, use care when putting pressure on your legs, as there is a risk the cramped leg can give out causing a fall. Hold onto something and start slow.

- Apply gentle massage, or better yet, have your partner do it for you.

- If the cramp persists, try warm water.

- For the ache after the intense pain has passed, Advil or Tylenol and stretching should do the trick.

If you are prone to cramping, focus on prevention. If that doesn’t work, it has been my experience the louder you yell, the more sympathy you will get. If you have to suffer the pain, you may as well let it work for you.

 

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